New on Netflix from this weekend you can find a six-episode Danish series called Elves (aka Nisser), that delivers something quite original this festive season.
Combining a Christmas family drama with fantasy, folklore, and horror – on a par with your scariest Doctor Who episode – the series is both disturbingly freaky and heart-warming fun.
We interviewed writer and creator Stefan Jaworski, to tell us more about it.
Nordic Watchlist: Tell us about the Elves series and what we should be expecting?
Stefan Jaworski: ‘Elves’ is the story of a secret island inhabited by real, deadly elves. And about a family who visits the island and accidentally disrupts an ancient truce, when they hit a young elf with their car, and the girl in the family brings it home to save it.
If Steven Spielberg and Stephen King had a child on a remote Danish island, ‘Elves’ would be it.
The audience can hopefully expect a fun, exciting adventure for the whole family, looking for thrills, mystery and hints of horror. If Steven Spielberg and Stephen King had a child on a remote Danish island, ‘Elves’ would be it.
NW: Where did the idea and creation of this story come from? Did you have any inspirations when writing?
SJ: The core idea is a simple ‘what if’: What if the stories we all know about cute and harmless Christmas elves were made up to shield the horrific truth that real elves are deadly, ancient creatures that roam the Scandinavian woods?
Exploring this idea, we’ve built a story about the clash between nature and culture, and at the heart of it, a story of whether we’re slaves to our inheritance or masters of our own fate.
What if the stories we all know about cute and harmless Christmas elves were made up to shield the horrific truth that real elves are deadly?
We are, of course, deeply invested in elven folklore, and should we be fortunate enough to move this series beyond the closed story of its first season, we have grand mythology to further explore and our own spin on it awaiting ahead.
But first and foremost, Elves is a love letter to the broad creature-adventures we all grew up on, from E.T. to Jurassic Park. Creating our own Nordic take on that genre, we’ve aspired to tell a story that is not just a horrific hell-of-a-ride, but also has fun, hope and heart.
NW: There has been a recent series of films and TV shows that have brought to life or weaved in the folklore stories, particularly from Iceland with Katla and Lamb, do you feel this is a trend on the rise?
SJ: Netflix has opened up a window for storytellers and audiences around the world that is quite unique, in how they strive to find and develop ideas that are deeply local, but also have the potential to reach a global audience.
This gives us access to unique stories, characters and questions from vastly different cultures, while at the same time allowing us to experience and recognize universal truths in these, ultimately bringing us all closer together.
NW: Elves is based on a remote island in Denmark – where did you go to shoot the series?
SJ: The island of “Aarmandsø” is a fictional island in the Danish Archipelago. “Aarmand” is an old Nordic word for “elf”.
The series is shot entirely in areas surrounding Greater Copenhagen, Denmark.
What have you been watching, reading, or listening to recently?
SJ: My children. What scares them, what excites them, what comes between them and brings them together.
‘Elves’ is an exploration of elven myth and folklore. It’s about characters and communities challenged and changed. But ultimately, it’s a hopeful story about the strength of family. Those we’re born into. And those we create. Across borders, race, and species.
Netflix has had a really great year for Nordic content – and they continue to deliver something that little bit different, with the likes of Love & Anarchy, Snabba Cash, Katla, Young Royals, Post Mortem – No One Dies in Skarnes, The Unlikely Murderer, and now Elves!
Elves (Nisser) is available on Netflix from the 28th November!
Interview by Alex Minnis